Definition – Guilt is an emotion we experience when we go against our morals and act in a way that we think isn’t appropriate.
Task – Think about when you have felt guilty recently…where has that guilty feeling come from? Do you feel guilty on a regular basis and if you do why is that? Don’t try to change these feelings right away, question them first and when you have a strong awareness about these feelings, then you are ready to work on them.
Types of guilt
Wasteful guilt – feeling guilty about waste – not eating all your dinner or throwing out food that has gone off – I usually feel guilty about this and I know in my own experience this comes from being told over and over when I was younger that I should be so lucky that I have food because there were starving babies in Africa. I then internalised this feeling and still to this day feel slightly guilty about wasting anything.
Wasting time is another thing I tend to feel guilty about but really if it feels right at the time then it probably is and we all need regular time out so enjoy it and stop the guilt!
Personal guilt – Making yourself feel guilty over and over for something you may or may not have done.
Existential guilt – feeling guilty for the suffering or misfortune of others. There is a huge difference between feeling guilty that somebody is suffering and empathising with them over their suffering. You did not cause their suffering so why would you feel guilt for it?
Effects of guilt on your body, mind and life
Physical affects – It causes stress, physical pain in the form or headaches, digestion problems and also ulcers.
Mental affects – Guilt can lead to constant worry, anxiety, depression and it can be a factor in causing OCD.
It may be a small and insignificant behaviour but can have a deeply negative affect on your life.
Healthy guilt/remorse and how others make us feel guilty
Remorse is a healthy emotion; it shows that you have a conscience and that you are a caring person. If you have done something wrong or made a mistake, try to make up for it, apologise to the person, make amends in some way.
Facing the issue head on is the best thing to do, these things very often don’t go away unless you do and making yourself feel guilty over and over without doing anything about it is not the answer.
Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, we all have mistakes from the past that we feel we can’t tell anybody about and if that is the case, try to make your peace with the mistake. It’s in the past, if it is not affecting your life right now, let it go and get on with it. Life is hard enough at times without making yourself feel guilty for something that that you cannot undo.
Other people making you feel guilty – when it’s the case that you have only done what you feel is right for you at that time, they really have no right to make you feel that way. It’s your life and nobody has the right to tell you how you should live your life, you are the only one that can live it, nobody else. Obviously, we need to live within the law and I’m not saying that it’s ok to go out and do things that are going to hurt other people.
On a side note – If you are under 18, and you are pissed off with your parents for “ruining your life and telling you what to do all the time” I know what it feels like, I have been there but now that I have grown up “somewhat” I can see that parents are really trying their best to protect you and provide you with safe boundaries. So, in that case, don’t ignore the value of their advice, they may not be as knowledgeable on what it is like to be a person of your age but to be fair, they have been in this world longer than you. At the end of the day, you’re going to make your own choices, just make sure their the right ones for you.
If someone is trying to control you in some way, try not to take that personally, they are probably doing it out of a lack of control in their own life. Also, try not to react to it but be firm in telling them that you are well capable of making decisions for yourself.
The things I practise daily are: Mindfulness and not taking things personally or reacting to people as much as possible. Not worrying about what people think about me. Do the best I can in every situation I find myself in. Being aware of myself, my emotions, my thoughts and being respectful to others. And because of this practise, I can honestly say I lead a very happy and peaceful life generally (we all have our bad days, me included).
Tips to overcome guilt
Again, if you are feeling guilty – why? Question it. Where is it coming from?
If it is coming from yourself as in you are making yourself feel guilty, then ask yourself is it genuine remorse for something you have done wrong? If that is the case – try to deal with that head-on – talk to whoever is involved in a calm way, apologise if you can, make amends as best you can, then forgive yourself and move on.
If someone else is making you feel guilty for something over and over that you have already made amends for then you need to question that. Is it a control thing on their part? There is only so much apologising you can do!
Existential guilt – feeling guilty for other people’s suffering or misfortune. Be aware of what aware of what you are observing on social media or what your thoughts are feeding into. Social Media it is proven can cause feelings of depression (comparing yourself or your life to others) and can make symptoms of depression worse. There is a huge amount of negativity and fear generated through the media and large controlling entities thrive on people’s fear. Be sceptical and don’t believe everything you read. I don’t watch the news or read newspaper anymore, why? Because it would literally scare the bejaysus out of me and I would be living in constant fear. If I need to educate myself on something I do so, I don’t need to keep a constant eye on the Media to feel educated or “in the know” so please don’t feel that you have to either. I hope you found this topic useful in some way, if you have please let me know, I always appreciate feedback 🙂